Safety on the Line: Improving Community Relations in Philadelphia

Recently, there have been a few incidents in the city of Philadelphia between Philadelphia police officers and local residents that demonstrate the divide between the two groups. Two cops are being investigated for allegedly cursing and using unnecessary force on state Rep. Jewell Williams. This is the second time these same officers have been accused of such activity.

In another incident, an officer in the 22nd district was quoted by a Temple journalism student as saying the residents of the area were animals. Local bodega owners allege they have become the unwarranted target of undercover raids by police officers. They claim that during those raids, the officers take merchandise from the store for personal use. Another officer has been arrested by the FBI after being caught selling drugs.

All of these events have come to light over the past two weeks and are playing a major role in shaping the public’s opinion of the Philadelphia Police Department. While it is unfortunate that a few bad people can ruin the reputation of many good men and women, it is a reality. If the public’s opinion of the police force is very negative, it will be very hard for the two groups to work together to keep the city safe. The citizens’ lack of trust may lead to some people wanting to “take things in their own hands.” There is a reason that the police force exists, residents should not need to protect themselves on their own. Now is the time for the city of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Police Department to improve community relations and regain the support of citizens.

Mayor Michael Nutter has begun to take the right steps to improve the situation, by agreeing to meet with bodega owners in regards to recent police raids. Establishing an open line of communication is always crucial for strengthening ties. Another measure that Mayor Nutter can take is to require all police officers to go through strict sensitivity training. Also, the police department should plan community days within different districts to develop a relationship with different groups of citizens. Since this is a public issue, all community members should have a voice in this situation. Do you have any thoughts on improving community relations?

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations firm staff member, Laura Macenka. Follow her on Twitter: @lauramacenka

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